SOUTHPORT, England – Jiyai Shin offered the simplest of game plans for Royal Birkdale: “Hit it straight, hit it straight.” Yani Tseng can attest to the validity of this plan. She hit all 18 greens in Round 1 of the Ricoh Women’s British Open to shoot 4-under 68, good for a share of the lead with Katherine Hull.
Tseng’s scorecard looked rather bland the first 16 holes, with one birdie and 16 pars. She finished with a flurry, however, going birdie-eagle on the closing par 5s.
“This is my second time playing a links golf course and I love links,” said Tseng, who won the Kraft Nabisco earlier this year. “I wish we could play more like this.”
Tseng offered a reasonable explanation for her newfound love: links golf makes her think. That heightened focus allowed her to concentrate fully on every shot around Royal Birkdale. Anyone who has watched Tseng play a considerable amount of golf can tell when she has mentally packed it in: Her nose points to the ground.
The chap who shuttled this scribe from the airport on Wednesday said Tseng was being bantered about as a favorite after having turned a pro-am round into a birdiefest. Perhaps he took that hunch to Ladbrokes.
• • •
WHERE ARE WE? Michelle Wie, like Tseng and many other players, talks frequently about staying in the present.
“You can’t look forward, you can’t look back,” she said after her opening round.
There was a time earlier in the week when Wie wasn’t sure where she was presently located. She wrote on her Facebook page that she was enjoying her time in Southampton. Actually, she’s in Southport, England, and plenty of folks offered help in clearing up that matter.
“I don’t know, it’s Southport now, right?” Wie asked the media on Wednesday. “We’re in England, correct?”
Just to show she has a sense of humor, Wie Tweeted this not long after shooting 2-under 70: “was a fun day out there with suzann and kitada. but a bit tired. that 4 hour drive commute back to southHAMPTON was a bit rough. lol jk :)”
Wie should be in a good mood. She finished birdie-eagle and sits two shots off the pace.
• • •
MOVE OVER, TOM BRADY: Paula Creamer looked like a quarterback around Royal Birkdale with handwarmers attached to her waist. For Creamer, it’s all about keeping that thumb warm.
“I have my hot hand pressed on it as much as I can, almost so it can burn me,” Creamer said.
The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion came in with a huge confidence boost from her major break through, beaming as she spoke about the wonderful aroma that filled her home thanks to congratulatory bouquets. The well-done letter from Arnold Palmer meant a great deal as well.
Creamer’s putting during Round 1 at the British Open wasn’t nearly as sharp as Oakmont. She three-putted three of the first five holes to shoot 2-over 74. She still hits only a dozen or so balls on the range and goes frequently for ice and soft tissue massage. She has bruises on her forearm the area is so tight.
“This is a brutal game, you know,” she said with a laugh.
• • •
FRENCHY: There’s a name near the top of the leaderboard that’s new to most American fans. Anne-Lise Caudal, a 26-year-old Frenchwoman who plays on the Ladies European Tour, carded four birdies and one bogey to shoot 3-under 69, one stroke behind Tseng.
“I’m really confident,” said Caudal, whose lone victory in Europe dates back to 2008. She has a pair of top 10s this season.
• • •
BACKING OUT: Natalie Gulbis withdrew from the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open because of back pain. It’s a reoccurring injury for Gulbis, who hoped the laser spine surgery she had in January would bring relief. Gulbis wrote in an e-mail Thursday afternoon that she was headed back to the U.S.
Spain’s Mariana Macias replaced her in the field.
Gulbis didn’t play a practice round at Oakmont earlier this month as a precautionary measure. She finished tied for 14th at U.S. Women’s Open. She has played in 13 events this season and is 43rd on the money list.